Basil, very tasty leaves: how to grow and harvest Ocimum basilicum


Growing basil yourself is easy, and it is even a great idea for all who like to spice up their salads and summer meals!

Basic Basil facts:

NameOcimum basilicum
Type – herbs and spices

Height – 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm)
Exposure – full sun

Soil: light, well-drained  –   Harvest: May to October

Forget about store-bought basil wrapped in plastic that only keeps for a couple days. Why not discover the taste of real basil, freshly harvested to meet your needs?

Planting basil

Planting basil outdoors

You’ll often be purchasing your basil in pots: transplant it to the ground earliest in May or anytime over the summer.

You can also leave it in its original pot for a while for easy picking indoors or on a balcony.

What is best, though, for growing potted basil is to repot immediately after purchasing in a larger pot.

  • Choose a sun-bathed area, sheltered from winds.
  • The ground must drain well to avoid stagnant water.
  • Water regularly after planting, but not too much.

Planting basil indoors

This plant is perfectly suited to indoor growing, or on a balcony, in pots or garden boxes.

Take care to water regularly so that the soil mix never dries up. If you purchased your basil in a pot in a supermarket, chances are you’ll have to water every day until you repot it to a larger pot.

Sowing basil

Sowing basil is a great way to get nice, high-quality basil plants.

You can purchase seeds in stores and recover more after your basil blooms to sow them again the following year.

You can sow directly in the ground, starting in April in Southern regions and in May for other regions.

  • Sow in light, well-drained soil, and if you can, add soil mix and amendments.
  • Watch over the sowing for a few weeks: the soil must stay moist. Don’t let it stay soggy for long, though, or your seedlings will die.
  • When seedlings have grown 2 to 3 leaves, thin so that only the more vigorous plants are left with space to grow.
  • When the plant is 4 inches (10 cm) tall, pinch stem tips to induce branching.

Collecting and harvesting basil

You can harvest basil leaves all spring and summer long.

Select larger leaves, and snip the entire stem off, so that new shoots can appear.

Basil can be harvested all day long, but usually is collected just before meals, so that its freshness and savor are at their highest.

Growing potted basil

Basil growing in a pot.It is very easy to grow your basil inside your house, on a balcony or terraces.

  • What is the best season to plant basil in a pot?

There isn’t any “better” season to grow basil indoors.

You can really grow it all year long, even in winter.
Usually it is added to summer meals.

It is mostly grown from April to September-October, both indoors and outdoors.

Choose a sunny, well-lit space like a windowsill for instance.

  • Water as soon as the soil is dry.
  • Fertilize the soil for better productivity.
  • Read our page on growing potted basil.

Species and varieties of basil

There are enough varieties of basil to fit any taste!

  • ‘Balconstar’ with its tiny green leaves, it makes for great roundish and bushy pot arrangements.
  • ‘Grand Vert’ – tasty, huge leaves that are easy to harvest
  • Mammoth basil this one has giant, ruffled leaves.
  • Lemon Basil tastes of lemon.
  • Purple ruffles purple, jagged-edged leaves, slightly ruffled and very fragrant.
  • Lettuce leaf basil very large wavy, fragrant leaves.
  • Marseillais oval,very fragrant leaves.
  • Fino verde thin and delicately fragrant leaves.
  • Red rubin basil dark purple.
  • Thai basil – tastes like aniseed.

Learn more about basil

Lush green basil leaves covering a garden bed.Native to India, basil spread to the Mediterranean region where it was added to most types of dishes, salads and sauces.

Growing basil is quite easy as long as basic rules are followed.

  • Choose a location that is sunny but not scorching.
  • Consistently moist soil.
  • Fertilization from May to August.

Basil is an ingredient in many Mediterranean meals, especially in Italy. The most iconic of these are pesto, pistou or basil-mozzarella tomatoes…

Basil-based recipes are innumerable and in most cases a true delight on a good summer day.

Basil was imported to Egypt long before being used in European cooking.

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Smart tip about basil

Basil can be frozen and its taste will virtually stay as delicious, even after several weeks. But it won’t hold for more than a few months.

Images: 123RF: Marcin Jucha; own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois; Pixabay: Jing, Monika, Andreas Lischka